The Small Farms Conservancy promotes and supports small, independently owned farms & ranches and their ecosystem stewardship through on-farm education, training and public advocacy.
Activities and projects are centered around two food-producing operations on two different continents. One, The Showcase Regenerative Farm, is in a First World country. The other, The Mwesiga Ranch, is in a Third World country. The Showcase Regenerative Farm is located on the South Central Coast of California, and The Mwesiga Ranch Ranch is located in the Mbarara District of Southwestern Uganda.
The Showcase Regenerative Farm
The South Central Coast of California, which includes the tri-counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, has a population of around 1.6 million. According to USDA surveys, this region has more than 5,000 small farms of less than 180 acres. Most of these farms are independently owned and operated.
The Showcase Regenerative Farm is focused on advocating for and promoting the value of small, independently owned farms and ranches to local food systems and the environment through public education and activities centered at the berry farm and surrounding wild oak woodlands of Restoration Oaks Ranch.
The Mwesiga Ranch
The Mbarara District population was estimated at approximately 445,600 in 2012, with an estimated growth rate of about 2.2%. 55% of the district population are aged between 0 and 18 years. Sustenace farming is common in rural Mbarara, which has a generally poor population. It is one of the districts of equatorial Africa with a high HIV/AIDS prevalence. There are a lot of orphans.
The Barnabas Project is focused on developing independently owned farms that extend beyond fundamental sustenance and into commerce. Barnabas and his team are training locals how to sustainably grow food and develop businesses on his ranch, then sending them out to establish more farms and inspire hope. Small commercial farms are engines of sustained growth for local economies.
The Challenge of Small, Independent Farms and Ranches
In the First World of California, unimaginative government policies and the sophisticated influence of the global food system are hurting not only local food systems, but an army of capable, passionate stewards of the environment. To the detriment of the communities they serve and the natural ecosystems they sustain, the small-scale farm and ranch lands of the First World are disappearing. How do we effectively communicate the value and increase the competitiveness of independently owned small farms and ranches?
In the Third World of Mbarara, both crops and livestock are raised, but primarily as subsistence, and often not very efficiently. Among other things, how do we meet the challenges of electricity, transportation, refrigeration and sanitation to grow and distribute food? While some of the bigger towns and cities of Uganda do have First World advantages, rural Uganda is primitive. Ugandans need training and support not only in the growing of food, but in the business of agriculture. The old Chinese proverb could be modified: "... Teach a Man To Farm, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime... And Build The Local Economy In The Process."
We believe that government and regulatory agencies worldwide should officially recognize the profound differences between privately owned small farms & ranches that primarily serve local food systems and large farms that primarily serve the global food system.
Why Are Small Farms & Ranch Lands Important?
- THE FOOD MOVEMENT: Small farms are essential to the healthy food movement. They are better equipped to regenerate and sustain healthy crop and ranch lands, strengthen ecosystems, utilize the energy of green waste and reverse climate change than any other group of people in the world.
- EMPLOYMENT: Small farms employ many people. Farm labor works with the farmers on the land, not for the CEO at headquarters. Almost all small farms are family owned and operated. When a farm family’s future depends upon the productivity of the land, they take care of the people they depend on to sustain it.
- ECOLOGICAL STEWARDSHIP: You can’t replace the small-scale farmers and the farm lands they manage with large-scale farming operations or fallow land and retain the same standard of ecological stewardship. Local delivery emits less greenhouse gases than remote delivery, and local food systems are MUCH better for the environment than the global food system on too many levels to innumerate.
- EDUCATION: Interested youth, college students and graduates in agriculture majors and entrepreneurial farm workers need the work experience and mentorships that small-scale farmers provide.
- ECONOMY & SECURITY: Small farms contribute greatly to a region’s food security and economic development, as well as the well-being of the people. You literally can’t have food security without working small farms.